Colombia pledges to get infrastructure fit for wind and solar

Nation to form taskforce to adapt its ports and highways to transport large wind components

Colombia will draw up a plan to cut red-tape and ease logistical bottlenecks to help investors build 2.2GW of new renewable energy capacity including wind farms in distant, underdeveloped regions of the nation.

“What we want is to be a support to private companies so that we can overcome the bottlenecks that appear, because we have several logistical challenges. We we will take the necessary measures and fulfill our obligations,” said energy minister Maria Fernanda Suárez after awarding contracts in the nation's first renewable energy tender.

Like Brazil in 2009 and Argentina since 2016, Colombia needs to review regulations over the transport of large components, and upgrade road, port and transmission infrastructure in order to allow large OEMs such as Vestas, GE, Nordex Group, Siemens Gamesa and Enercon – all players in other Latin American markets – deliver their equipment in time for the commissioning of first projects in 2022, and sustain a wind power energy market that is seen topping 500MW a year.

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Colombia’s energy minister underlined that the government’s role is to guarantee the conditions for the development of projects and a taskforce, which will be put in place over the next three months, will work as a support for the companies.

“If you look at the solar and wind atlas, you can see that Colombia has an incredible opportunity [because] it shows that La Guajira province has more wind potential than the whole of Colombia’s [remaining] hydroelectric potential,” she said, concluding that efforts need to be undertaken jointly by the national and regional governments and private companies.

One of the first challenges will be to guarantee that ports can import all the turbines, and components can be transported to the projects in La Guajira in time, since the current government in Colombia does not plan to introduce local-content requirements for renewables.

“We have logistical challenges in the ports [and their structures], in the highways and in the number of ports that are available,” admitted energy vice-minister Diego Mesa.

In one example, he said that some ports have enough capacity, but because they are private terminals with specific concessions contracts, they cannot legally unload large turbine components.

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“We are already in talks with the port authority and the Ministry of transport to allow the port to receive this type of cargo,” he said.

From the peak-hour tenders in February and the recent long-term renewable energy tender, a total of nine projects with over 1.4GW of capacity will all be located in the distant La Guajira province, which is one of the poorest and least industrialised regions in Colombia. The country's longer-term target is for 2.2GW.

The government has awarded to private companies concessions to build three 100-250km transmission lines linking the La Guajira wind district to the central and more populous regions of the country.

The projects are all designed with turbines of around 3.5MW in capacity, which means 60-metre-plus blades, towers around 100 metres high and large nacelles. That means that in the next three years, about 400 nacelles and 1,200 blades will have to be transported across the country to allow wind farms to be built in similar time-frames.

Suárez said: “What is important is that we need information from the companies [about what they require].”

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